“LYING, A CIVIL or CRIMINAL LIABILITY?”
By: Saliha Naila Abdullah “Junior Associate”
As the numbers of affected Filipinos grow every day, devastating news about death tolls comes with a heavy heart. Just a week ago, we learned that a doctor had died after contracting the Coronavirus 2019 Disease (Covid-19) from treating a patient who allegedly lied about her travel history.
In this kind of situation, we may pose the question: “If a patient lied about his/her medical condition and history during a declared public health emergency period, will the said patient be criminally or civilly liable?”
To answer this query, we may refer to the recently passed law by the Philippine Congress in 2019 or prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. Republic Act No. 11332, otherwise known as the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act”, aims to protect the people from public health threats and to instill health consciousness among the people. This law intends to address issues involving notifiable diseases, epidemics, and health events of public health concern.
A notifiable disease, as defined in the said law, is any disease that is mandated by our law to be reported to government authorities. The collation of information allows the authorities to monitor the disease and provides early warning of possible outbreaks. Notably, the declaration of the epidemic of public health emergency shall be vested to the Secretary of Health. However, if the same is a threat to the National Security, then the President of the Republic of the Philippines shall declare a State of Public health emergency.
The law listed some prohibited acts. A violation or commission of any of the prohibited acts may hold public authorities/entities as well as private individuals/entities liable, both civilly and criminally.
Under Section 9 of the law, there are five (5) prohibited acts punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment of up to six (6) months, specifically:
- “Unauthorized disclosure of private and confidential information pertaining to a patient’s medical condition or treatment”;
- “Non-operation of the disease surveillance and response systems”;
- “Non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern”;
- “Non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public concern“; and
- “Tampering of records or intentionally providing misinformation”.
The first prohibited act is committed by either a government official or private individual in custody of private and confidential information of a patient’s medical condition or treatment. This is committed through unsanctioned release of any confidential information of a patient.
The second prohibited act is yet to be effected by the Implementing Rules and Regulations to be issued by the Department of Health. More so, any government official may be held liable if found committing this prohibited act.
The third prohibited act may be committed by any government agency, private or public entity, medical practitioner or individual, except patients, who fails to timely report or accordingly respond to the notifiable diseases or health events of public concern. The law mandates for these mentioned persons to immediately report and make full disclosure, upon their knowledge, of all notifiable diseases and health events affecting the public to respective government units and/or the Department of Health.
The fourth prohibited act applies when there is non-cooperation by any person or entity having either the notifiable disease or is affected by the health event of public concern. The former are persons diagnosed or identified as positive of having the notifiable disease, while the latter covers persons who are yet to be affected or identified to contract the said notifiable disease due to possible exposure to the said disease. At present, every individual in the Philippines, who are under enhanced community quarantine, may be considered as persons affected by the health event of public concern, the novel Covid-19 disease. Thus, in case of deliberate disobedience or noncompliance by these persons, they are disputably liable under the law.
Lastly, the fifth prohibited act is: “Tampering of records or intentionally providing misinformation“, whichpunishes individuals tampering medical records or intentionally provides false information or misinformation of their medical condition and records. Thus, it can be argued that a patient who maliciously fails to provide accurate information about his or her medical history or travel history may be held liable under this law. More so, a person may be arguably liable if his or her false information or misrepresentation has caused imminent danger to the lives of other people.
While waiting for a test case involving the legal issues on-hand, it can also be noted that the Department of Health has yet to issue the implementing rules and regulations of the said law.
In the meantime, we urge everyone to fully and correctly disclose all information on one’s medical condition and travel history. Lying about these matters will not in any way aid in eliminating or controlling the disease. It will only make the situation worse for everyone and for all the front liners who are supposed to help us.
To protect ourselves and families from this Covid-19 disease, let us continue monitoring the developments and follow the advisories coming from the Department of Health, World Health Organization and similar concerned government agencies in terms of the relevant policies and procedures, public information, quarantine process. Of similar importance, let it be our moral responsibility to verify first the information we are receiving about this pandemic before clicking that share button.
A full copy of Republic Act No. 11332 may be accessed through this link.
For queries, updates and other legal concerns, you may contact us from Mondays to Fridays, 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, through the following: